Quick Summary: The 360 Degree Leader by John C. Maxwell discusses how anybody can become a great leader without depending on a particular position or title and increase his influence to make a real impact.
Why You Must Read The 360 Degree Summary?
This book summary will bust your myths about leadership.
Often people have wrong notions about leadership.
Everyone has an image of what a great leader looks like.
But the question is:
What is the right way of doing leadership?
What makes a leader great?
In this summary, you'll learn the answers to such questions.
Who Should Read The 360 Degree Leader Summary?
Well, anybody can read this book summary.
Although it's about leadership, anybody can learn from it and improve his leadership skills.
This summary will best help those who are working in an organization and are frustrated about not being promoted to a higher position.
Or anyone who wants to make a real impact in this world after becoming a great leader will also enjoy reading this.
The 360 Degree Leader Summary (PDF)
This summary will teach you a lot about true leadership.
So without a further ado, let's dive right in.
Leadership is all about increasing your influence.
If you ask what does leadership mean, you may find various definitions.
But the basic definition of leadership is influencing people and helping them grow.
Often people think of leadership as a "top position."
They think that if they get a top position in a company, they'll become a leader.
But oh boy, they couldn't be further from the truth.
Position or title has nothing to do with true leadership.
Even an employee can be a leader if he learns this simple fact that anyone can influence others.
Most people don't even talk about leadership. They see it in a different light.
The author says that if you think that after getting a top position in a company you will learn leadership, then you are believing in a myth.
Or simply put, you are having a fantasy.
Leadership is just like any other skill.
You learn more and more about as you spend your time and get experience.
Now you may ask, "How can I gain experience of leadership if I'm not a top leader?"
That's exactly what the author has tried to tell in this book.
This mindset, that nothing is in your control — that you need to be a leader to practice leadership — is stopping you from becoming a leader.
Once you realize that leadership can be practiced anywhere, regardless of your position, you become capable of becoming a leader.
Again, who is a leader?
A top official in a company? No.
Someone who has authority? No.
Someone with lots of people under him? No.
Someone from whom people are scared of and follow his commands? No.
A leader is simply anyone who can influence other people and lift them up.
And to lift others up, you need to lift yourself up.
You have to rise above the limiting mindset and stop giving excuses.
And above all, you have to stop seeing leadership as a fantasy.
We get our ideas about leadership from movies.
You might have seen in the movies that a leader wears suits and everybody respects him. All people do as the leader says.
Yes, a true leader can indeed influence people to do stuff.
But you have to understand that true leadership is not about establishing control — it's about influencing people so that they grow and lift themselves up.
You may be a CEO or a top person in a company. But you can't be a true leader unless you have the skills of a leader.
What are those skills?
Skills like the ability to understand people, ability to influence people, self-management, etc. All such skills are necessary for becoming a leader.
A top position can't give you all that.
In fact, if a leader lacks the necessary skills, he won't be able to handle the pressure that comes while being on the top.
It will make him unworthy of his position.
And he'll struggle to sustain his influence.
The days are long gone when a person on the top could establish control over other people using the power of authority.
Of course, a person with a title can still do that. But he won't set a good example of leadership.
It'll only prove that the person at the top lacks basic leadership skills.
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People don't follow you when you get a top position — they follow when you become a leader.
Let's understand what it means.
As we discussed above, most people have no idea about leadership.
So they start believing in the wrong ideas.
They think that as soon as they get on top, people will start following them.
And some people start following too, as they don't know who to follow.
The truth is:
People only follow you when you become a leader.
And you become a leader when you possess the basic qualities of a leader.
The author says that most people give up on leadership because they see no options.
When they find that they are not in a top position and it's extremely hard to reach there, they give up.
They give up without any reason.
It's not a good thing.
Because they could practice leadership right from their current position.
They didn't need to reach the top.
The author has smartly named this book "The 360 Degree Leader."
The '360 Degree' means that you can practice leadership from any position and in any direction.
Allow me to explain how.
Let's say you are a middle man in a company.
Now you can influence in any direction — required that you possess influencing abilities.
You can influence the people at the top.
You can influence the people at the bottom.
You can also influence the people who are at the same level as you.
You can influence in all directions.
So you see, you don't really have to climb the ladder to become a leader.
That's why one should never give up on leadership.
When you realize this, you suddenly start seeing opportunities. You realize how many opportunities you let pass away.
Yes, it's true that at some point, you'll want to climb the ladder.
But it's not compulsory.
You may start enjoying your current position more than the top position.
That's because not every position suits everyone.
It also depends on what type of person you are, what you like, and what you don't like.
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As you climb the ladder in a company, your responsibilities increase.
The author says that the top position doesn't feel like what most people think.
People think that leaders enjoy a lot of freedom and power.
They think the leaders' life must be amazing as they have lots of people working under them.
We have seen posts on Instagram that leaders get all the credit while people at the bottom of the hierarchy do all the hard work.
Put simply: Most people have this notion that leaders enjoy and the employees suffer.
This is just a fantasy, the author says.
Being a leader isn't easy as most people think.
A leader has a lot of pressure of responsibilities.
In fact, leaders don't enjoy that much freedom.
As people at the bottom have fewer responsibilities, they have more freedom.
I'm not saying that they can do whatever they want.
The point is:
As you climb the ladder, the weight of responsibilities on your shoulder also increases compared to when you are at the bottom of the ladder.
Leaders don't enjoy a glamorous life and relax on the beach all day.
You have to do a lot of work and bear all the responsibilities as a leader.
Yes, there is no doubt that the leaders get paid more. But they also do the heavy work.
If your only motivation is that after becoming a leader you won't have much work to do, I want you to think again.
A leader's life is not as EASY as it seems.
The author also talks about how most leaders complain that they don't have a sense of control over their lives.
The skills and job required at each level in a company may be different.
But the conclusion is:
Leadership is not easy. You have to practice and learn it.
It does not come automatically by attaining a top position.
Only when you bust such myths, you become capable of becoming a true leader.
Leadership is not about selfish gains — it's about helping others grow.
Most people look up to leaders because they feel that once they get on top, they will be able to exercise control and have lots of power and money.
For most people, their only motivation is to fulfill their selfish desires.
Frankly speaking, if you are trying to become a leader to only benefit yourself, you are not a great leader.
When you look at most organizations, people are competing with each other like hungry wolves fighting for a meal.
This is not leadership.
That's pure selfishness.
A true leader is not selfish. He first thinks about others — but also keeps growing himself.
There is nothing wrong to think about your personal gain.
But at the same time, if you are not helping others achieve their goals as a leader, you are not a great leader.
Leadership is like a team sport.
For instance, in a football team, every player has to work towards a common goal.
Imagine a player starts thinking about scoring a goal only by himself, do you think that team will win the game?
Of course not, it's a team sport.
All the players have to coordinate with each other.
The captain has some power. But he has to make sure that the team wins at the end.
A true leader encourages others to grow.
Or in other words, a true leader helps other to lift up and become a leader.
A company succeeds when people in it contribute to each other's growth.
Leadership is never about benefiting a single person. It's always about collective growth.
As we discussed earlier, leadership can be practiced by anyone.
Every single person in a company has the potential to become a leader.
A position or title must never limit a person's potential.
It doesn't mean that competition is bad.
Competition in an organization can be healthy when people have the right intentions — when the motivation is 'collective growth of all.'
Also Read: Ego Is the Enemy Summary
The best way to succeed is to create more great leaders in the middle of the organization.
When you practice 360-degree leadership, there is room for a lot of growth.
Usually, any organization has a few leaders at the top and the rest are followers.
The best idea is to have multiple leaders in the middle.
Allow me to explain.
Leaders in the middle can influence both upwards and downwards.
They are not only influential to the people at the bottom, but they can also influence the people at the top.
So you see, this is a perfect position to be in if you really want to make an impact.
In most organizations, the people at the top aren't in harmony with the people at the bottom.
Because people at the bottom of the organization feel that their requirements aren't being fulfilled. They don't feel like they are understood.
But when you increase the number of leaders in the middle, they are closer to the people at the bottom.
There is a high probability that the communication will flow more smoothly in that case.
Every person can play a part in common growth.
There is harmony between the leaders.
Which may also encourage others to contribute to the success of the company and grow during the process.
If you want to become a great leader, learn to deal with the stress.
You didn't expect this, did you?
Yes, a leader's life can be stressful.
You have to manage the people under you. And at the same time, you have to handle the issue with the people on the top.
Especially, when you are a new leader, nobody trusts you.
People at the same level as yours might feel that you don't deserve your position.
Sometimes, people have personal issues too.
Just because someone is a leader doesn't mean that he doesn't have other problems in life.
A leader has to learn how to deal with stress.
Stress-Management is a skill that can help you deal with stress and keep your cool.
Sometimes, things will not happen according to you.
You will be held responsible for the mistakes made by other people.
Sometimes, you will feel helpless and feel like giving up.
With leadership, come lots of stress and responsibilities.
So you have to get good at managing all that.
The good thing is:
You can become stress-free if you learn how to deal with it.
The author recommends that you find an activity or method that relieves you of stress.
It's way better than shouting at your co-workers, right?
The stress, if not managed properly, can create problems for you.
So it's better that you find something that could relieve you of your stress when needed.
A selfish and incompetent leader hurts the growth of the organization.
So far we have discussed why a leader must have enough skills to help the organization succeed as a whole.
But the opposite is also true:
When we look at reality, we find that there are lots of incompetent leaders. They not only harm the growth of the organization but also limit other leaders from growing.
It's frustrating when someone holds you back from growing with others, isn't it?
The author says that most incompetent leaders project their insecurities on others.
Such self-centered leaders make decisions to benefit themselves — not the organization.
Put simply, they don't give a damn about the growth of others. As long as they get their desires fulfilled, they are happy.
Such leaders often become a bottleneck in the growth of all.
Well, in an ideal case the other leaders should get rid of such incompetent leaders.
But in reality, you have to work alongside them.
You don't have full control over the organization. So most of the time you can't choose who will work with you as your co-worker.
The author shares a few solutions.
For instance, you can find and help the incompetent leader grow by helping him grow his strengths and work on his weaknesses.
You can't just go and flush out your frustration. It'll only make things harder for you.
You know, people are scared to accept their weaknesses.
Therefore, you need to be a little strategic here and deal with this sort of situation smartly.
You can create a plan with the other leaders.
You can provide helpful resources to the incompetent leaders so that they study them and improve by working on their weaknesses.
The idea here is not to label the people as competent or incompetent.
Real growth happens when everyone in an organization grows.
So it's essential that no matter how weak or incompetent a leader is, he must be helped.
As a reminder, leadership comes with practice and experience.
And everybody has the potential to become a leader.
If you are a competent leader and you have a leader above you who is not skilled enough, you can always work around and figure out a way to help him.
Finally, the author says that it's better to not let the frustration get over you.
If you are frustrated yourself, you will not be able to lead others properly.
Who wants a frustrated leader anyway, right?
Or do you?
In the real world, no organization is perfect.
We are human beings after all.
So you will probably find a few incompetent and selfish leaders in almost every big organization.
You have to get used to it.
Although the author recommends that in the worst case, you should change jobs.
But I don't think it's going to help you.
Why? Because no company or organization is perfect. There is always some room for growth.
Either way, it's will depend on the situation.
The good thing is:
Hopefully, you will also find great leaders.
You can learn lots of lessons from them.
You will need to find the right leader to learn from, though.
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Learn to appreciate your current position.
There is an adage that the grass is always greener on the other side.
The author talks about how most leaders don't appreciate their current position.
If you are doing a job, you know what I'm trying to say here.
It's not just in the job. Most people don't appreciate their gifts in life.
We often keep complaining about the things we don't have.
It's not bad to have dreams. But it's not good to not appreciate what you already have.
Don't you think we should appreciate our current life — no matter how good or bad it is right now?
Why do most leaders don't appreciate their current position?
Because they think that they are missing out on many things and they believe that they need to rise up to the higher ranks — only then they will become happy.
We tend to focus more on things we want to have.
When we see a person, we observe the things that the other person has and we don't.
Then we start dreaming: "If only I had that thing I would be happy!"
Such a mindset can become a block in your path to becoming a great leader.
This is a scarcity mindset. It stops you from making the most of your potential.
So you now know that you can make an impact if you shift your mindset from scarcity to abundance.
What's the solution to this problem: How can you get out of a scarcity mindset?
The solution is simple...
You have to appreciate what you already have.
Since we are talking about leadership, you have to see your current position as a launchpad to your success.
Instead of complaining, you must find out ways to contribute.
We have already discussed how leadership can be practiced at any level with the right mindset, haven't we?
Also read: The Happiness Trap Summary
"Leaders are like icebergs."
The author says that leaders are like icebergs.
When we look at the iceberg, we only see the tip above. But deep down there is so much that is not visible on the surface.
Similarly, leaders appear as if their life is full of freedom and power.
But we don't realize the effort they put to get there — to their current position.
The author discusses how people approach him after the presentation and appreciate his current job — as he appears to be doing what he loves.
It's the same thing we do when we look at any successful person.
We only look at the achievements — and ignore failures.
We only hear about the success story.
But often tend to ignore the hardships.
Why does this happen?
It happens because everyone does the same thing.
Nobody covers the failure stories.
So it's not entirely our fault. It's the availability bias.
We don't see the full picture.
We only see the tip of the iceberg.
As a result, we imagine that leadership must be easy once you hold a top position.
We admire the leaders and think that they must be living an awesome life.
We blame our current position and think that we need to do something to get those same results.
We imagine people appreciating us as a leader.
Ring a bell? Don't we do this?
Is wanting acknowledgment a bad thing? No.
Is it bad to dream about having a top position? No.
The point here is:
We can bring a change if only we change our mindset.
We have to understand that to become a leader we have to learn the required skills.
A top position can only give you power.
But power doesn't equal influence.
The power to influence only comes with experience and understanding.
When you grow as a leader, you grow deep within yourselves, just like an iceberg.
And as you grow, your understanding of yourself as well as people becomes deeper.
This in turn makes you a great leader.
Once you become a true leader, the position you hold amplifies your influence.
It's the other way round.
Can you see how true leadership comes from a different center — from a different standpoint.
When you understand true leadership, you understand that authority is only a part of leadership.
Mere authority doesn't create influence.
It's the leader who influences. While the position adds value to it.
Just think about it:
Would you follow someone who only projects his authority on you and doesn't add any value to your life?
So leadership doesn't work unless the leader is genuine.
When you are the leader — the results are your responsibility.
Well, this isn't a lesson.
This is simply the reality.
When you are a leader in a company, you are like a celebrity.
Everyone expects something from you.
People think that you are perfect.
So it becomes incredibly hard to maintain a perfect image in front of everybody.
Being human, you may make mistakes.
What's worse, if something goes wrong, then you will be blamed — even if it's not your mistake particularly.
The author talks about how managers are fired in companies when the teams don't deliver the expected results.
As a leader, your team becomes your responsibility.
If your team makes a mistake, you will be held responsible for it.
The leaders at a higher position than you will ask you why did that happen.
Being a leader isn't easy.
You can never know what will happen in the future.
So you have to have a clear vision right from the start.
As a leader, it's your job to give proper direction to your team's effort. And make sure that they are efficient at their job.
If your team is not performing well, you have to handle it.
If your team performs exceptionally well, you will get all the credit.
It's not about who gets the most credit.
The point is whether you are a good leader or a bad one, it'll be judged by the results you deliver.
Everybody will expect something from you.
It becomes your responsibility to fulfill those expectations.
The problem is:
You may lack control over your life.
The situations will not always be in your control — and you will be blamed or acknowledged for almost everything.
A leader must be ready for such challenges. And shouldn't get scared and stop working.
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The Key Takeaways From 'The 360 Degree Leader'
That's a lot to take in.
So let's recap what we learned in this summary:
- Leadership Is All About Increasing Your Influence.
- People Don't Follow You When You Get A Top Position — They Follow When You Become A Leader.
- As You Climb The Ladder In A Company, Your Responsibilities Increase.
- Leadership Is Not About Selfish Gains — It's About Helping Others Grow.
- The Best Way To Succeed Is To Create More Great Leaders In The Middle Of The Organization.
- If You Want To Become A Great Leader, Learn To Deal With The Stress.
- A Selfish And Incompetent Leader Hurts The Growth Of The Organization.
- Learn To Appreciate Your Current Position.
- "Leaders Are Like Icebergs."
- When You Are The Leader — The Results Are Your Responsibility.
The 360 Degree Leader Quotes
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book.
The credit goes to the author John Maxwell.
The right to lead must be earned individually with each person you meet."
Anyone can choose to become a leader wherever he is. You can make a difference no matter where you are.
If you want to be a successful leader, learn to lead before you have leadership position.
You may be able to grant someone a position, but you cannot grant him real leadership.
The 360 Degree Leader Review
I enjoyed reading this book.
The author has written this book in a very simple-to-understand style.
What's amazing about this book is:
The advice shared by the author is highly actionable.
I love those books that give you something to apply right after you finish reading.
Earlier, I used to think that leadership is only for special people.
And not everyone can become a leader.
But I was wrong.
This book made me realize that leadership is like any other skill.
And with practice, anyone can become a leader.
If you are trying to become a leader, then consider reading this book.
You won't regret reading this.
Book Rating: 8/10
Now It's Your Turn
I hope you enjoyed reading this summary and learned a lot about leadership.
Got any questions? Let me know in the comments below.
And don't forget to share this summary with your friends and family members.
Thanks in advance!